|By JULIE PACE; JULIE PACE The Associated Press|
Obama, under mounting pressure to act from fellow Democrats who are worried about political fallout in the fall elections, praised the retired four-star general and said he accepted his resignation with "considerable regret." But the president, too, focused on troubling allegations of treatment delays and preventable deaths at veterans hospitals around the country.
Obama said the secretary himself acknowledged he had become a distraction as the administration moves to address the VA's troubles, and the president agreed with him.
"We don't have time for distractions," Obama said. "We need to fix the problem."
One of Shinseki's last acts as secretary was to hand the president an internal accounting that underscored just how big the problems have become. It showed that in some cases, VA schedulers have been pressured to fake information for reports to make waiting times for medical appointments look more favorable.
"It is totally unacceptable," Obama said. "Our vets deserve the best. They've earned it."
The president appointed
"One personnel change cannot be used as an excuse to paper over a systemic problem," said House Speaker
The massive bureaucracy at the VA has come under intense scrutiny over the past month, following allegations that 40 patients died while awaiting care at a
After that scathing report, a cascade of Democrats on the ballot in the fall midterm elections joined dozens of Republicans in calling for Shinseki to step down.
Administration officials said the combined pressure of the VA investigator's troubling findings and the extreme focus on Shinseki's status led Obama to conclude that the secretary would probably need to resign. But they said the president wanted to first allow Shinseki an opportunity to submit his own report to the
In his speech to the